How can we begin to explain something that really is far easier to do than to describe. This type of sailing has history with a capital H. It commenced as free sailing when the only form of control was the set of the sails. Difficult or what? It then moved on to control by the Braine Gear method. Still very difficult but better. The invention of the vane steering gear revolutionised things. (The full size guys even picked up on this idea). Vane gear has made free sailing a thing of beauty. There is no better sight than a properly trimmed yacht thrashing to windward, having its course adjusted by the self tacking vane gear reacting to every minute wind change. Other, than one powering downwind flying a spinnaker. Awesome stuff and very addictive.
Ready for the start Free Sailing is pure Match Racing, each boat in the fleet sails each other. With Match Racing you either win or you loose. There are no places to console yourself with, just some points or nothing! Events are a series of races (called boards) sailed in pairs the length of the lake, one on a beat and the other on a run, against each of the other entrants on a one to one basis. This is the way that yachts were raced competitively from the very beginning, before the turn of the century, until the mid 1970’s when radio started to take off. The winner is calculated on points scored. Free sailing is now carried out at a handful of hard edged lakes by a dedicated bunch of die hard skippers (with wicked senses of humour). The 6 metre Class did have a free sailing National Championship that alternated between the Birmingham and Bournville clubs. The A Class has its free sailing National Championship that alternates between the Fleetwood and Gosport clubs.
Racing to windward is humorously described as a black art, the intricacies of vane sailing, which are known only to those who have been indoctrinated into the inner circle. (This consists of falling into the lake a couple of times, or is it pushed?). You do not sail the Olympic style course, just straight up the lake and back again. Sounds and looks easy. Just try it. The vane skippers are always willing and able to take on a mate to help and learn. In other words, its great fun. You will need a sense of humour for sure. The skill level within the sport is very high, Minute changes in sail trim make the difference between winning and loosing. All this has to be done on the bank because once you’ve let it go there is very little you can do to alter it. There is no faffing about twiddling knobs on the radio remote here, Once you've set it up and launched it that’s it, until it comes back to a bank, if it comes back. They have been known to sail in circles. It is a very competitive sport, so you do need to practice. Yet there is a strong camaraderie between the skippers and the sport has always enjoyed a good social side that helps to make an event memorable. It’s claimed to be the most fun you can have with your clothes on!!!!!. If this has stirred your fancy, contact your nearest club and get stuck in.
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